Housing

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 4:50 pm on 15th November 2001.

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Photo of Brian Iddon Brian Iddon Labour, Bolton South East 4:50 pm, 15th November 2001

I am sorry, but I do not have time.

If urban regeneration is to mean anything in towns and constituencies like mine, we must have the money to deal with such properties. They cannot be allowed to stand derelict and empty. Drug addicts inherit privately owned properties because private landlords buy them one by one for a few quid and reap large amounts of housing benefit by letting them to desperate people. Next door may live elderly people who are frightened of going out. Yards have rubbish dumped in them, which attracts vermin. None of our constituents wants to live in such conditions.

I plead with the Government to help constituencies like mine to deal with those mega housing problems. We need to clear properties that are beyond repair. The Government have been excellent at releasing capital receipts and working on neighbourhood renewal, but they are not getting to the heart of the problem.

Cutting my speech short, as have all other hon. Members, I turn briefly to the public sector. I have long argued that we should try to move away from the public sector borrowing requirement model of supporting public sector housing. At one stage, I thought that the general Government financial deficit model would be put into operation. Can the Minister confirm that? I understand that, of all the countries in the European Union, only this country and the Netherlands operate the public sector borrowing requirement model. The Minister will correct me if I am wrong on that.

I was not present at the Labour party conference, so did not hear the Secretary of State announce possible alternative financing of public sector housing, which has caused so much excitement in the housing arena. Will the Minister tell me about that? We need to borrow against our considerable assets because it makes sense and is done elsewhere in Europe. Why cannot public authorities borrow not only against the tenanted value of their properties, but against considerable rent streams. Will she clarify what the Secretary of State said in Brighton, which appears to have been denied by the housing press?

Will the Minister also look at the model, called a community regeneration company, presented to her by the director of housing in Bolton? If tenants must choose an alternative form of housing management, I ask her seriously to consider that model, which is not in the housing Green Paper but is recognised by people as a satisfactory alternative to proposals in it and has now been submitted to the Department. Best-value considerations have shown that the model is better than the options that the Government have suggested for Bolton and other authorities. Will she please consider it?

I am not against tenants having a choice of an alternative landlord, particularly if they have a bad one, which could even be a local authority. However, under successive Governments, Bolton has been one of the few north-west towns to have been given all the brownie points for housing management for, I think, nine out of 10 successive years. That is an incredible performance. If the tenants, local government and national Government are happy with the management, why should local authorities be put under extreme pressure to transfer either management or the ownership of their stock to an alternative landlord? That does not make sense to me. Surely, we can leave a few well-managed local authorities with their own stock to look after, because an awful lot of people are now in the queue for stock transfer.

Finally, has the Minister seriously considered securitisation as an alternative means of financing housing in the public sector? That is a hot topic in the housing press.